This article discusses the work of Mircea Eliade, especially Patterns in Comparative Religion, as an “Undead text.” Beginning with an analysis of Eliade’s work as it was understood in the 1980s, the author moves on to discuss the role of Patterns in the context of Eliade’s life throughout the twentieth century, including his wish to move away from his Romanian roots and far-right political associations. Patterns became an Undead text when Eliade’s critics argued that the work was part of a larger pattern of ahistorical, acontextual analysis. This critique was particularly trenchant in the context of more public discussion of his far-right past. The article ends by noting the ways in which Patterns is an Undead Text: it endures through conversations with colleagues who wish to rehabilitate Eliade’s work, if not his life; through syllabi in the “intellectual history” of the field; and through the lens of religion and literature.
Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion (1949; trans. 1958)
Laurie L. Patton is professor of religion and the seventeenth president of Middlebury College. She is a specialist in South Asian religions and the author or editor of ten books and sixty articles in the field, the most recent of which is Who Owns Religion? (2019). She is the translator of the Penguin classics series The Bhagavad Gita and the author of three books of poems, including, most recently, House Crossing (2018).
Laurie L. Patton; Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion (1949; trans. 1958). Public Culture 1 May 2020; 32 (2 (91)): 385–396. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-8090138
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